Nicole Garber, MD
April 10, 2020
We know that staying active is good for our health in so many ways, from keeping our weight in a healthy range and cardiovascular health to immunity and for mental health. The World Health Organization recommends 150-300 minutes of physical activity a week to maintain general health and prevent weight gain. Some organizations recommend at least 420 minutes of activity to lose weight and prevent weight regain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are working from home and engaging in online learning and may not be able to follow their normal routines for exercise. For many, normal exercise schedules may be disrupted as gyms, yoga studios and CrossFit studios are closed, and even group exercises that were taking place in parks are canceled to practice social distancing. Fortunately, with a little bit of flexibility and conscious schedule building, it is possible to remain active or even increase your physical activity during social isolation.
- While working at home, pace while on phone calls or use a standing desk to complete emails and other work on the computer.
- Consider getting a pair of hand weights and doing simple toning exercises while talking on the phone or reading for work.
- Take movement breaks throughout the day. It may be helpful to set an alarm on your phone or computer reminding you to take a movement break that might include doing a few simple stretches or something more rigorous like a set of push-ups or sit ups. If it is nice outside, and local social distancing guidelines allow for it, take a walk around the neighborhood, taking care to maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Taking a short walk outdoors will get some movement in your day and break up your workday with a true break which may increase your productivity. A walk at the end of your work day could substitute for your typical commute and help clear your mind and let you transition into non-work mode. If multiple people are working or educating from home this can also act as a time to reconnect with your family and discuss the day, as could a walk after dinner.
- If you are helping to educate your child at home, remember to give them recesses throughout the day and take the opportunity to move yourself as well. You could put on music and dance with your child, play Twister, go outside and play a game, play catch or lead them through some calisthenics. Use those active video games that they have at home to shake things up. These active breaks will help your child get out some pent-up energy, stay physically healthy and refresh both of your focus to continue the academic work.
- If you have a pet, this is also a great time to get outside with them and take a walk or even throw the ball around the backyard. They will be grateful for the time outside with you.Remember, many household chores are naturally active in nature, so make vacuuming, dusting and yard maintenance work for you. Making more intentional and vigorous movements could be helpful — try doing lunges when vacuuming or sweeping. Consider washing the car by hand, doing your own landscaping and using a push lawn mower rather than a power mower.If you are looking for intentional exercise you can still exercise outside by bike riding, inline skating, walking, running, playing tennis (just be careful to not touch your face after touching the ball), and hiking, as allowed by local guidelines.
- Many online websites and apps are offering free workouts as are many gyms in support of their patrons. You can also find workouts on Amazon Prime that include cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and mind-body workouts like yoga. If you have weights at home, you could find an online routine to follow while watching tv or a movie. If you don’t have weights, you could use items from around the house as substitutes, common options include bottles of water, canned food and hardback books. Additionally, you can do body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, planks and push-ups.
Your mindset will be the most important thing to maintain during this time. Setting physical activity goals for the day may be helpful. Sharing those goals with someone else may help increase accountability for both of you and give some much-needed social connection. This may be a time to join an online group or create a group with your friends and challenge and support each other to meet activity goals. It may be frustrating that you can’t do your normal exercise routine at the gym or take your favorite group fitness class, but you can shift your perspective and look at this as a time to explore new activities such as online dance cardio classes, yoga or even an outdoor activity like hiking. You may just find something that you really enjoy and want to incorporate into your routine even after our days of social distancing are over.